Update: Al-Azhar welcomes Saudi-led Islamic alliance to fight terrorism

Al-Azhar issued a statement on Tuesday welcoming the establishment of an Islamic alliance to fight terrorism under the leadership of Saudi Arabia, calling on all Islamic nations to join the alliance. 

​The most established representative of Sunni Islam in the country also expressed its hope for this alliance to be the start for more cooperation between Muslim nations and to succeed in ridding the world of terrorism.

Egypt joined this Islamic military alliance, along with 34 other states, to combat terrorism, according to a statement published by the Saudi Press Agency late Monday.

A joint operations center will be established in Riyadh to coordinate and support the military operations and develop the programs and necessary mechanisms for such efforts, the statement read.

“Arrangements will be made to coordinate with friendly and peace-loving countries, as well as international bodies, to serve the international efforts to combat terrorism and maintain peace and security,” it added.

The 34 countries include Turkey, Qatar, Libya, Yemen, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan, among others.

The statement asserted terrorism is a violation of human dignity and human rights, and poses a threat to the interests of states and their stability. “It is therefore necessary to fight it with all means,” it said.

The announcement maintained the initiative would abide by the United Nations Charter, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation Charter, and other international charters pertaining to fighting terrorism.

In a press conference, Mohammad bin Salman, deputy crown prince of Saudi Arabia, second deputy prime minister and minister of defense, explained the alliance would not only be targeting the Islamic State, but “any terrorist organization that appears in front of us.” He added that this would not be through military operations alone, but would also encompass challenging ideology and the use of media.   

He highlighted the need to coordinate efforts to combat terrorism due to the suffering of several Muslim nations, including Syria, Iraq, Libya and Sinai — Syria and Iraq are not part of the alliance.

“Today every Muslim country is fighting terrorism individually but terrorist organizations are fighting under a unified leadership,” he said, “so coordinating efforts is very important.”

Salman explained that, while there are 34 countries in the alliance so far, he expects other Muslim countries to join. He said the initiative would coordinate with the “legitimate” leadership in these nations, as well as with the international community.

Saudi Arabia and its allies in the Gulf Cooperation Council (with the exception of Oman) have been leading a military offensive in Yemen since March, claiming that Shia Houthi rebels seized control of the state in a coup (from September 2014 until February 2015). They allege the takeover was orchestrated by Iran in an attempt to expand its influence in the region.

At the behest of Saudi Arabia’s ruling dynasty, Egypt joined Operation Decisive Storm, and continued to lend military support throughout subsequent operations Restoring Hope and Golden Arrow.

In August, Egypt agreed to extend involvement in military operations in Yemen by another six months, in support of the Saudi-led coalition. However, Salman distinguished the newly-formed Islamic alliance from Saudi’s efforts in Yemen. 

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